Design Methods #36 – Cultural Probes

Mar 02 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Cultural probes are the name designers give to exercises, activities and provocations given to participants in a study to provide inspiration and understanding about their lives, thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and the cultural and social context that informs them. In market research, such activities might be associated with longitudinal studies and with pre-work (homework) and follow-up work done in connection with more formal interviews and participant discussions.¬† Read more »

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In Touch With Reality

Sep 06 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory

“Seeing’s believing, but feeling’s the truth” – Thomas Fuller

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not¬†giving the kiss the attention it deserves” – Albert Einstein

I first wrote about the importance of the sense of touch five years ago (click here). At that time there was very little literature focusing on this important sense, but the last two years has seen the publication of at least four books about touch and related senses (see below) so it’s time to look again at touch. Touch is often neglected, especially by marketers, so let’s focus on why touch is such a powerful way to communicate with your customers. Read more »

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Principles of Design #64 – Visibility

Jul 05 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

A basic principle of designing systems is that usability is greatly improved when there are easy to see feedback systems which show how to use the system along with its current status. This enables users to clearly see current status, possible future actions and the likely consequences of such actions. A very simple example is the common use of red lights to indicate when a system is receiving power. Other examples would be the illumination of certain parts of a system to indicate that they are available for use or the use of sound and touch to provide feedback when actions have been completed (for example, the clicking of a mouse, or the “whoosh” when something is placed in your computer trash can). Read more »

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Design Methods #28 – Creative Toolkits

Mar 01 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

Creative toolkits are collections of objects organised to help users model, visualise or be creative through play, They are a way to package creative development and generative design into a collection of visual elements, objects or building bricks to help participants find concrete ways to express their ideas. Typically such creative play is very difficult to achieve through traditional research methods, and creative toolkits help teams create or co-create ideas and designs with customers. Read more »

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The Mind of Metaphor

Dec 19 2014 Published by Neil Gains under brain science

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances” – William Shakespeare

In I Is An Other, James Geary explores the power of metaphor and its pervasiveness in everyday life, arguing that it is not just a literary device but fundamental to human thought across domains as diverse as economics, advertising, politics, psychology and many more. Metaphor is “essential to how we communicate, learn, discover, and invent”.

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Design Methods #26 – Role-playing

Dec 18 2014 Published by Neil Gains under design

Role-playing is used in design, workshops and research to place people in the roles of users, exploring the behaviours and habits that happen in different scenarios or reflect different aspects of customer experience. This is done by acting roles in realistic scenarios to build empathy and identify challenges and opportunities in a product or experience. This can be a low cost and easy to execute way to uncover many of the habitual behaviours and responses associated with a particular aspect of life. Read more »

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The Perils of Packaging Redesign

Aug 27 2014 Published by Neil Gains under sensory branding

I recently wrote an article for Singapore Institute of Management on the perils of changing branding, citing examples such as the GAP logo change and Pepsi’s disastrous reducing of the Tropicana packaging (which cost them millions of dollars). It seems that brand and marketing managers never learn the lessons of the Tropicana disaster (which I discuss in more detail in Brand esSense) and still love to tinker with brands, moving strategies, changing logos and ‘updating’ or ‘modernising’ their packaging.

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Design Methods #21 – User Journey Maps

Jul 18 2014 Published by Neil Gains under design

User journey maps are used to visualise the experiences of people when using a product or service, evaluating each individual interaction and identifying improvements that can be made at each moment. The map tells the ‘story’ of an individual’s actions, feelings, perceptions, considerations and behaviours including positive as well as negative moments, covering all such interactions over sometimes long periods of time. Such documentation of a series of events helps shift business focus from an operational (system) point of view to a the broader context of how individuals interact with the business in the real world.

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Principles of Design #56 – Wabi-Sabi

Mar 19 2014 Published by Neil Gains under design

Wabi-Sabi is a design principle that is also a (Japanese) world view, philosophy of life and aesthetic principle. Wabi-Sabi centres on the acceptance of transience and imperfection, and is based on beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”. It derives from one of the three marks of existence from Buddhism: impermanence. [The others are suffering and absence of self-nature.] Read more »

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Creating Great Customer Experiences

Jun 19 2013 Published by Neil Gains under customer experience

In The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences, Matt Watkinson provides a very practical guide to customer experience design and management, backed with a range of examples from different industries (mostly UK based). I particularly like the way that the author focuses on the ‘qualitative’ aspects of experience, including the sensory and psychological elements, arguing that these cannot be measured quantitatively through standard metrics. As he puts it, “it’s not what the features and functions of the product or service allow us to do, it’s how it makes us feel”. He also focuses on ‘individuals’ rather than ‘customers’ as many significant experiences with a business are likely to happen before someone is a customer. Read more »

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